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In their new book Why Students Disengage in American Schools and What We Can Do About ItPaul Bernabei, Top 20 Trainer’s director, and co-author Kevin Brennan address the significant problem of student disengagement in K-12 American education. They offer a new way of understanding the cause of this problem as well as practical and easily implemented strategies and practices for reducing it. The impact is enormous: it reduces the multitude of negative consequences that result for students and the society in which they live.

To disengage, notes Paul, means to find a variety of ways to be invisible in school. Typically, students who disengage hold one of two beliefs: “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not smart enough.” These beliefs, in turn, result from being compared and judged in numerous areas of their lives.

The authors use the familiar tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” to convey the idea that a wolf lurks in school, with dire consequences for students. In contrast, their goal is to create a school-wide culture that fosters safety, trust, and connections. Accordingly, chapters in Why Students Disengage in American Schools and What We Can Do About It offer specific strategies that result in keen engagement and learning.

“Having been an educator for forty-five years and listening to students, teachers and parents,” says Paul, “I have become increasingly aware of how the natural desire to learn in American students diminishes as they move through our educational system. My passion for developing potential in students and transforming American schools fueled my curiosity regarding the causes of this all too frequent occurrence. Why Students Disengage in American Schools and What We Can Do about It is the result.”

“A must read for anyone working with young people! Our effectiveness as educators requires that we consider the inner life of students. Anyone who has gone through the traditional educational system will relate to this book.” Alison Medeck, School Counselor, Forestview Middle School, Baxter, Minnesota

“I am excited for those who will read the wisdom in Why Students Disengage in American Schools. Paul’s philosophy and practical strategies are part of the answer to keeping students engaged.  If teachers can embrace even half of what is presented, they will be better teachers and their students will be better educated in all aspects of their lives.”  Maribeth Mohan, English/Foreign Language Department Chair, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

“Very few are as brave as Paul to attempt questions that are not easy to answer. Yet, he brilliantly blends insights and reality to core issues in American education. This book challenges our thinking, widens our perspective, and encourages us to do what is best for students.”  LaVonna Roth, Founder and CEO, Minds That Matter, Tampa, Florida

“Paul knows that the key to improving anyone’s performance is confidence, faith and optimism. He shares a wealth of practical and effective ideas that result in the kind of success we all strive to achieve for others and ourselves. Best of all, Paul teachers with wonderfully engaging and heartwarming personal stories.”  Mark Shellinger, Director, National SAM innovation Project, Louisville, Kentucky

“This inspiring book clearly shows that teachers need to create an emotionally safe environment. Paul Bernabei provides countless strategies which foster student engagement. The essential message to the students is: ‘You matter.’” Delaine Moe, Student Assistance Coordinator Racine Unified School District Racine, Wisconsin.

Our Mission

Top 20’s primary goal is to revolutionize education in America by helping students become more engaged in school and providing teachers with a new way of seeing themselves as relevant educators in the 21st century.

In addition, because it uses common language, easily understood concepts and practical tools for dealing with everyday situations and problems, Top 20 can have a profoundly positive effect on any organization, from business to government to healthcare, enhancing relationships and experiences for all.

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